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Broadcasters’ drama awards mostly ignored by viewers

With joint awards, little competition and drama series’ low viewership ratings, annual awards have become meaningless

Joo Sang-uk (left) and Lee Seung-gi pose for photos after winning the grand prize at 2022 KBS Drama Awards at KBS Annex Hall in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, Dec. 31. (KBS)
Joo Sang-uk (left) and Lee Seung-gi pose for photos after winning the grand prize at 2022 KBS Drama Awards at KBS Annex Hall in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, Dec. 31. (KBS)

With lesser-known projects and decreasing viewership ratings, local broadcasters’ annual award ceremonies were largely ignored by the public.

Since the 1980s, the three major broadcasters -- SBS, KBS and MBC -- have recognized outstanding achievements in Korean dramas through year-end award ceremonies aired on their respective networks.

The prizes are awarded to applaud the stars’ performance and dedication. It was a chance for broadcasters to show what it felt were the biggest series of the year, talented actors and rookies through these award ceremonies.

This may not be the case for this year's drama awards.

Actor Kim Nam-gil won the grand prize at the year-end SBS Drama Awards for his role as a criminal profiler in “Through the Darkness.”

While viewers celebrated Kim’s performances, they were concerned about the broadcaster’s decision, as “Through the Darkness” recorded the lowest viewership ratings among SBS’ hit drama projects, including “Why Her,” “Business Proposal,” “Again My Life,” “The First Responders” and “One Dollar Lawyer.”

Actor Kim Nam-gil accepts the grand prize at the 2022 SBS Drama Awards in Seoul on Dec. 31. (SBS)
Actor Kim Nam-gil accepts the grand prize at the 2022 SBS Drama Awards in Seoul on Dec. 31. (SBS)

Public broadcaster KBS, which had a tough year with all of its drama series recording single-digit viewership ratings, was heavily criticized for giving out several joint awards.

Though the rookie of the year awards were traditionally given to the best young male and female actors, respectively, a total of six stars won the trophy this time.

Seven actors were named as the winners for Excellence in Acting. In addition, Park Jin-hee, Ha Ji-won, Kang Ha-neul and Do Kyung-soo received Top Excellence in Acting awards.

KBS even decided to split the grand prize between two actors, awarding Joo Sang-uk of “The King of Tears, Lee Bang-won” and Lee Seung-gi of “The Law Cafe,” a series that recorded the highest viewership rating of 6.2 percent, according to the ratings firm Nielsen Korea.

“I only heard about Lee Seung-gi because of his recent legal dispute with his former agency. I didn’t know that he had even starred in a drama series this year,” a 30-year-old housewife who wished to be identified by her surname Lee told The Korea Herald.

Lee added that she stopped watching the KBS awards ceremony because the broadcaster seemed to hand out awards to all actors who starred in its projects.

“I was also shocked to know that the ceremony continued on until 1:20 a.m. the next day,” Lee added.

Park Min-ji, 32, an office worker and Korean drama fan living in Daegu, felt that the broadcasters’ annual drama awards were losing their reputation for recognizing the real stars behind smash-hit series.

“Many popular shows are released either by cable channels or streaming services. I personally think 2022 was dominated by cable channels like ENA’s ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” tvN’s “The Queen’s Umbrella” and JTBC’s “Reborn Rich,” Park said, adding that she is disappointed that those series’ platforms don’t have any year-end ceremonies.



By Lee Si-jin (sj_lee@heraldcorp.com)
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